The monitoring of the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education- Mid Day Meal Scheme(MDM)- by the Centre and States was inadequate, CAG revealed in its Report.
“Our audit disclosed that the actual implementation still suffers from various shortcomings and lapses across the board. The enrolment data of the MDM covered schools vis-a-vis the private schools in primary/upper primary levels during the five year audit period, registered opposite trends,” said the Report which was laid in Parliament today.
“While enrolment increased by 38 per cent in private schools, it declined by 5.58 per cent in MDM covered, government and government aided schools. Which is indicative of popular perception that private schools provide a better learning environment,” the CAG said.
Audit observed mismatch in the data relating to the number of children availing MDM as reported vis-a-vis the number of children actually availing MDM during the day of visit to sampled schools by the monitoring institutions. The prescribed stipulation that foodgrains of at least Fair Average Quality (FAQ) were issued by the FCI was to be ensured through regular inspections.
The CAG pointed out that in most states however, inspections were not carried out in this regard leading to supply of inferior quality of rice to children. Adequate numbers of health check-ups of children were not conducted, in the absence of which the impact of MDM Scheme on the nutritional status and required micronutrient supplements of the children could not be ascertained. “Cases of financial indiscipline such as furnishing of incorrect Utilisation Certificates, misappropriation of funds, fudging of data to claim higher cost of foodgrains were widespread. The monitoring by both the Ministry and States was inadequate,” the Report said..
The MDM was launched in August 1995 to boost universalisation of primary education by increasing enrolment, retention and attendance simultaneously impacting on the nutrition levels of children. The scheme lays emphasis on providing cooked meals with minimum 300 calories and 8-12 grams of proteins and adequate quantities of micronutrients. The scheme was extended to children studying in upper primary classes from 2008-09.
The enrolment of children in the MDM Scheme covered schools registered a consistent decline over the years from 14.69 crore children in 2009-10 to 13.87 crore children in 2013-14. In contrast, the enrolment of children in private schools witnessed an increase of 38 per cent from 4.02 crore to 5.53 crore during the same period indicating that MDM in itself was not a sufficient condition to retain children in schools, and that there is a growing section of society seeking better quality in education.
“It is time to realise that providing meal is a means to an end, serving the larger purpose of education.Clear trends were noticed, which demonstrated that the meal served its purpose only when the expectations of parents, with respect to good education for their wards, was fulfilled,” the CAG said.
One of the objectives of MDM Scheme is to encourage poor children, belonging to disadvantaged sections, to attend school more regularly. The Report revealed that most states however, did not formulate any criteria to identify poor children belonging to disadvantaged sections. Neither did these states conduct any survey to identify such children. As a result, this important objective remained on paper only.
“Audit of the test checked schools in the states brought out that regular health checks were not conducted in many states and Union Territories. In the absence of the prescribed health checks, an important tool to ascertain improvement in nutritional status of children was found nearly abandoned. In most states the children were not administered micronutrient supplements and de-worming medicines,” the CAG said.
The Report highlighted that the provisions for monitoring and inspection prescribed in the scheme were not followed effectively. The steering and monitoring committees at national, state, district and block level did not meet regularly. Funds provided for management, monitoring and evaluation remained grossly underutilised. Thus good governance practices were not followed.